Defending Truth: Slate's Chris Hitchens does a hatchet job on Michael Moore
By Chris Parry
Posted 06/23/04 05:41:11
Well, it didn't take long. The partisan hacks were out for blood on Bowling For Columbine within days of its release, but with Fahrenheit 9/11, they're out before the flick is even in theaters. Slate's resident Bush apologist (who once did a negative piece about Mother Theresa!), Chris Hitchens, pulled an absolute kneecap job on Michael Moore yesterday with an article entitled Unfairenheit 9/11: The lies of Michael Moore. In it, he wrote all manner of allegation about Moore's new film, peeing on it from a great height, calling it "crap", and alleging that the film shared the same standards as the propaganda films of the Nazis. For a while I thought about responding to Hitchins' article, being as it is so rife with laughable comments and unfounded allegations, but I thought to myself, "No, that's one long rambling piece he's written there. It'd take forever to disassemble it... it's just a lone voice in the wilderness after all. It'll be forgotten soon. I'll just let it go." But then my buddy Chuck read Hitchens' piece and took the position that it must be all true and Michael Moore can't be trusted and that there was no way he would see this film. Well, I couldn't let that stand, so now, for the sake of all that is good, I must speak out. I'm cracking my knuckles as you read.
"One of the many problems with the American left, and indeed of the American left, has been its image and self-image as something rather too solemn, mirthless, herbivorous, dull, monochrome, righteous, and boring. How many times, in my old days at The Nation magazine, did I hear wistful and semienvious ruminations? Where was the radical Firing Line show? Who will be our Rush Limbaugh?"
Hitchens exposes his bias in the first few lines of this piece. In calling lefties dull and mirthless, and wondering where their version of Rush Limbaugh will come from, he's announced where he's coming from in no uncretain terms. Need I say, on behalf of all those who claim a leftist affiliation out there, that when a lefty version of Limbaugh comes along we want nothing to do with it. Limbaugh fights without facts, he alleges and abuses, he makes statements that he knows are untrue, simply because nobody can refute them to his large audience without coming on his show. And nobody is likely to do that unless they like being talked over.
But what Hitchens is setting up here is the theory that Michael Moore IS the left's version of Limbaugh. And it only gets worse from there.
"With Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, however, an entirely new note has been struck. Here we glimpse a possible fusion between the turgid routines of MoveOn.org and the filmic standards, if not exactly the filmic skills, of Sergei Eisenstein or Leni Riefenstahl."
Wow. Second paragraph and he's calling Moore Nazi-esque. Talk about setting the tone...
"In late 2002, almost a year after the al-Qaida assault on American society, I had an onstage debate with Michael Moore at the Telluride Film Festival. In the course of this exchange, he stated his view that Osama Bin Laden should be considered innocent until proven guilty. This was, he said, the American way... Something—I cannot guess what, since we knew as much then as we do now—has since apparently persuaded Moore that Osama Bin Laden is as guilty as hell. Indeed, Osama is suddenly so guilty and so all-powerful that any other discussion of any other topic is a dangerous "distraction" from the fight against him."
A simplistic attempt at 'Gotcha'. Allow me to explain Moore's motivation, as if it needed explaining to anyone with a concept of logic, law and due process. Bin Laden IS innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the law. That IS the American Way. Indeed, it's the World Way. But in order to prove his guilt, one must build a case, capture him and put him to trial. Moore's point was clear - in order to make a military move on another government, people or person, you need to have your ducks lined up legally. You can't just say "he's evil, so we're gonna get him," no matter how evil he may actually be. If you've got to build a case against Jeffery Dahmer, you've got to build a case against Bin Laden.
But in F9/11, Moore has a different point to make. What he's saying in F9/11 is, why, exactly, when the pursuit of Osama Bin Laden is completely justified, have only 14,000 troops been sent after him, while ten times that number have been sent into Iraq to take over a country that had NOTHING TO DO WITH 9/11?
Has Michael Moore ever made a statement that he might later have regretted? I'm sure. Perhaps something like "Mission Accomplished" or "bring 'em on" might qualify... hmm?
"Fahrenheit 9/11 makes the following points about Bin Laden and about Afghanistan, and makes them in this order:
1) The Bin Laden family (if not exactly Osama himself) had a close if convoluted business relationship with the Bush family, through the Carlyle Group.
How do you get 'close and convoluted' exactly? The business relationships that Moore points out run far more frequently than a single 'convoluted' connection at the Carlyle Group. In fact, Bush's first private company, a Texas oil drilling company, was invested in heavily by Osama Bin Laden's brother when the firm was in dire financial straits. Bush promptly drove the newly funded company to bankruptcy regardless, but it wouldn't be his last "close and convoluted" connection with the Bin Ladens. His father knows the Bin Ladens well too, since a Bin Laden sat on the Carlyle Group's board of directors while Bush Sr was employed by the company, and while that comfortable connection was growing, Carlyle gave Bush Jr an airline catering company to run... which he promptly ran into the ground. Again.
On the day before September 11 2001, Bush Sr was meeting with the Carlyle head honchos, including a Mr Bin Laden, to talk business in New York, but Poppy left early for a remote part of the Midwest. The next day, the WTC towers would tumble, and three days later, while the rest of us were stranded at airports and bus stations, the Bin Ladens (including the Carlyle director) were picked up by private jets authorized by the White House and whisked off (without questioning) to Paris 'for their own protection'.
Now, you tell me if that connection is "close and convoluted", because to me it looks pretty damn close, and not at all convoluted.
2) Saudi capital in general is a very large element of foreign investment in the United States.
Yes. 7% of all wealth in the United States, according to Moore's figures. That would include Citibank (yes, the largest bank in the world is owned by the Saudi royals), and large parts of Time Warner (you know them, the owners of CNN) and even Disney (who refused to let Fahrenheit 9/11 be shown in their theaters). The Carlyle Group just yesterday purchased Loews Theaters. Hmm... Wonder why they'd have sudden interest in the cinema industry.
3) The Unocal company in Texas had been willing to discuss a gas pipeline across Afghanistan with the Taliban, as had other vested interests.
Wow. Talk about being disingenuous. Moore's point was far clearer than Hitchens gives credit for. In the years before September 11 2001, the Clinton government passed a directive that no business be done with the Taliban, for they had been harboring and protecting Osama Bin Laden's al Queda organization. That meant NO business would be done with them - period. But when Bush came to office, not only did he send the Taliban $43m in aid, he also brought in a delegation of Taliban honchos that came to Texas to discuss a pipeline that would take gas from the Caspian Sea to Pakistan - through Afghanistan.
The prime movers behind this plan were Unocal, who Moore shows again and again Bush had majors ties to. After September 11 happened, when we duly went in and overturned the Taliban as the rulers of Afghanistan, who did Bush put in their place? Khamid Karzai - an employee of Unocal. And one of Karzai's first acts of office was to sign the papers agreeing to send that pipeline through 'his' country for his old employers.
How fortunate for them.
4) The Bush administration sent far too few ground troops to Afghanistan and thus allowed far too many Taliban and al-Qaida members to escape.
I'm sorry, but I thought this was considered fact. When American Generals opted to send Kurdish rebels into the caves and holes of the Afghan mountains, we all sat back waiting for the inevitable dead body to emerge. Instead, Osama Bin Laden got through the Kurds, as well as the few hundred Americans behind them, and was spirited off to Pakistan where he remains to this day. He's not hiding in a cave, he's laughing. He's watching Matrix DVDs and sipping Jolt Cola. He's playing X-Box and ordering pizza, people.
Bush's response to that? He took troops out of Afghanistan and sent them instead to go get Saddam Hussein. Think about that - they know roughly where Bin Laden was, but rather than make his capture a priority, they went after someone else. With TEN TIMES the number of troops that they took to Afghanistan.
If that doesn't warrant mentioning, I'm Dutch.
5) The Afghan government, in supporting the coalition in Iraq, was purely risible in that its non-army was purely American.
I'm not even sure what Hitchens is trying to say here. The Afghan government had no army to speak of, because we blew it apart. Even today, the government itself only rules small portions of that country, while the rest is down to tribal warlords who do their own thing (such as grow more opium poppy than ever before). Suffice to say, when the US says "jump", Khamid Karzai says, "would you like oil with that?"
6) The American lives lost in Afghanistan have been wasted. (This I divine from the fact that this supposedly "antiwar" film is dedicated ruefully to all those killed there, as well as in Iraq.)
Hitchens 'divines' wrong. I have to say that I was shocked and pleasantly surprised by exactly how pro-soldier Fahrenheit 9/11 is. It shows the soldiers as just doing their job, with minimal supervision, questionable directives from commanders, incredible stresses, a lack of training, and no clear objective. It shows them asking the question, again and again, "Why are we still here?"
And it shows them in hospital, with limbs blown off, annoyed that their benefits have been slashed by Bush in the time since they volunteered to fight. Some of them even make a point of vowing to do whatever they can for the Democrats from this moment on, despite having always voted Republican previously.
And it shows their funerals, none of which Bush has ever attended.
And it shows their parents, beaming with pride that their child is in the military, then devastated when that child is reported as dead.
And it shows the veterans that have come home and refuse to return to Iraq for another tour of duty, not willing to kill innocent people for a war based on a lie, even if it means they'll be sent to prison as a result.
And it shows conferences of US corporate contractors heading to Iraq, where a speaker says such things as "whatever it costs, the government will pay it," and "when that oil flows, there's going to be a lot of money there."
So yeah, American lives in Afghanistan have been wasted. As they have in Iraq. The boys and girls who went to fight for what they thought was right have been sacrificed so 'the have's and the have more's' (or, as George likes to call them, "his base") can profit.
"And these are simply observations on what is "in" the film. If we turn to the facts that are deliberately left out, we discover that there is an emerging Afghan army, that the country is now a joint NATO responsibility and thus under the protection of the broadest military alliance in history, that it has a new constitution and is preparing against hellish odds to hold a general election, and that at least a million and a half of its former refugees have opted to return. I don't think a pipeline is being constructed yet, not that Afghanistan couldn't do with a pipeline. But a highway from Kabul to Kandahar—an insurance against warlordism and a condition of nation-building—is nearing completion with infinite labor and risk. We also discover that the parties of the Afghan secular left—like the parties of the Iraqi secular left—are strongly in favor of the regime change. But this is not the sort of irony in which Moore chooses to deal."
That's perhaps because there is no irony inherent. Never in Moore's film does he say that troops shouldn't have gone into Afghanistan. If he did say that once at a film festival two years ago, it's not in his film today - so why is this the primary point of Hitchens' article?
It seems that Hitchens is intent on critiquing this film not for what is in it, but for the fact that it doesn't follow with statements the filmmaker made in 2002, to a room of maybe twenty people. Is Moore not allowed to make a film unless every statement he's ever made has been vetted and qualified and cross-referenced against it? Is he not allowed to point out 90 truths if one of them doesn't match with something he once said during a film festival panel? This is ridiculous, and the most petty basis for attack in the entire Hitchens piece.
But then, that's what the right does so well - point out the flip-flops of others while ignoring their own. Going to war with Afghanistan for harboring terrorists is one thing. Going to war against Iraq for oil is another altogether, and only someone with a partisan ax to grind couldn't (or wouldn't) see that. Like it or not, formerly liberal Chris Hitchens is very much now a member of the Republican right.
"In a long and paranoid (and tedious) section at the opening of the film, he makes heavy innuendoes about the flights that took members of the Bin Laden family out of the country after Sept. 11. I banged on about this myself at the time and wrote a Nation column drawing attention to the groveling Larry King interview with the insufferable Prince Bandar, which Moore excerpts. However, recent developments have not been kind to our Mike. In the interval between Moore's triumph at Cannes and the release of the film in the United States, the 9/11 commission has found nothing to complain of in the timing or arrangement of the flights. And Richard Clarke, Bush's former chief of counterterrorism, has come forward to say that he, and he alone, took the responsibility for authorizing those Saudi departures."
Okay, so Hitchens calls Moore tedious and paranoid for pointing out something that Hitchens himself admits to having pointed out? Double standards anyone?
It's true that Clarke says he authorized the Saudi planes to leave US airspace. But Clarke worked not for the FBI, who desperately wanted to interview those family members (as interviews with agents in F9/11 point out), rather he worked for George Bush's White House. He signed the authorization, he did not make the orders.
As for the 9/11 commission having nothing to complain about in that respect, Hitchens might be better served to note that the commission has said that their only mandate is to investigate the CAUSE of 9/11 - not the subsequent actions that may have helped capture (or free) the organizers of the attack. That means that such questions are outside their arena of interest and are a waste of their precious time.
But then, to admit such wouldn't serve Hitchens' real point here - that Michael Moore is on the other side of the political spectrum from he and that means he must be smeared at all costs, so that Republicans can point to Hitchens' article and say "See? The movie is all crap! It's lies! Lies, I tell you! Hitchens is a liberal and even HE says it's lies!"
"President Bush is accused of taking too many lazy vacations. (What is that about, by the way? Isn't he supposed to be an unceasing planner for future aggressive wars?) But the shot of him "relaxing at Camp David" shows him side by side with Tony Blair. I say "shows," even though this photograph is on-screen so briefly that if you sneeze or blink, you won't recognize the other figure. A meeting with the prime minister of the United Kingdom, or at least with this prime minister, is not a goof-off."
Now, I just don't get this at all. According to figures compiled by the Washington Post, to August 2003 from the time he took office, Bush had taken 250 days off. That's 27% of his presidency to that point spent on vacation, or roughly a day off per week, in '9 to 5 speak'. In his father's entire term of office (four big years), Poppy took 543 vacation days at Camp David and in Kennebunkport. Ronald Reagan? He went off the clock for 335 days during his eight years in office. But Jimmy Carter only took 79 days off during his Presidency, while Bill Clinton spent only 152 days kicking back during his two terms in the top job.
Think about that for a second - in barely 2/3 of one Presidential term, George Bush Jr took more days off than Clinton and Jimmy Carter did in a combined TWELVE YEARS!
Is that not worth mentioning? Would Hitchens find such behavior from a Democratic President similarly understandable? Is it okay to spend the day riding around the back forty on a mountain bike if Tony Blair is huffing and puffing trying to keep up? Does that constitute 'work'? Is that what Presidents are paid for?
Hitchens takes issue with a shot that he admits is only a split second, simply because it has Tony Blair in the background. Perhaps Blair was on vacation too? Perhaps on one of the other several dozen vacations Bush has taken Blair wasn't present?
The fact is that Bush, along with taking more vacation days than any other President but his father, has also attended more fundraising functions that any other President - by a country mile. And all that during a time of war?
Tell me, Chris... am I lying?
"The president is also captured in a well-worn TV news clip, on a golf course, making a boilerplate response to a question on terrorism and then asking the reporters to watch his drive. Well, that's what you get if you catch the president on a golf course. If Eisenhower had done this, as he often did, it would have been presented as calm statesmanship. If Clinton had done it, as he often did, it would have shown his charm."
Not if he'd said it while the nation was at war, it wouldn't.
"More interesting is the moment where Bush is shown frozen on his chair at the infant school in Florida, looking stunned and useless for seven whole minutes after the news of the second plane on 9/11. Many are those who say that he should have leaped from his stool, adopted a Russell Crowe stance, and gone to work. I could even wish that myself. But if he had done any such thing then (as he did with his "Let's roll" and "dead or alive" remarks a month later), half the Michael Moore community would now be calling him a man who went to war on a hectic, crazed impulse."
Where on earth is Hitchens getting his crack? You don't need to rush to war to actually be "doing something" when you're under attack. Surely Bush could have done more, while the jets were still in the air and heading to New York City and Washington, than sit in a children's classroom for fifteen minutes reading "My Pet Goat". The nation was under attack for crying out loud! And those were the EXACT words whispered in Bush's ear as he SAT THERE looking scared out of his brains. He heard the US was under attack and he did nothing. He sat and waited it out. Then he took questions from the children.
Meanwhile, in New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania, Americans were dying, jumping out of windows, burning, being crushed, fighitng hijackers and steering planes into fields. While America was being attacked, George W. Bush finished his photo op.
Now, let's be clear. There were many things Bush could have done that day. The first one might have been to cancel the school photo op when he'd heard that the first plane had hit the WTC (something he admitted to having known when he told a reporter on his way into the school, "that's one bad pilot, huh? I'll talk about it later.")
He might also have got out of that classroom and hit the phones when he heard about the second building being hit. He might have authorized the hijacked planes to be shot down by F-16's, or even make sure that F-16's were shadowing the hijacked planes (they never did, even though there was more than an hour between the first hijacking being reported and the last plane hitting a field in Pennsylvania).
Or heck, he might have even pulled a Rudy Giulliani and got on the TV to tell us all that it was going to be okay. But he did nothing. And Hitchens, in trying to say that the only thing he could have done that day was rush to war, is not just being disingenuous, he's being totally and morally dishonest. And YOU know it, no matter who you vote for.
"In fact, I don't think Al Jazeera would, on a bad day, have transmitted anything so utterly propagandistic. You would also be led to think that the term "civilian casualty" had not even been in the Iraqi vocabulary until March 2003."
Clearly Hitchens hasn't seen the excellent Control Room, or he wouldn't have made the unfortunate Al Jazeera dig. But in terms of civilian casualties, Hitchens is amazingly flip with the lives of innocent people. Were the dead in the World Trade Center towers not 'civilian casualties'? Are the civilian casualties on one side of the political divide more important than those on the other? And to what end have we inflicted those civilian casualties on Iraq? For their freedom? For their democracy? For their Weapons of Mass Destruction?
Why? Why are we there? Why aren't we in Afghanistan? That's Moore's point, and it is well made.
"I'll just say that the "insurgent" side is presented in this film as justifiably outraged, whereas the 30-year record of Baathist war crimes and repression and aggression is not mentioned once. (Actually, that's not quite right. It is briefly mentioned but only, and smarmily, because of the bad period when Washington preferred Saddam to the likewise unmentioned Ayatollah Khomeini.)"
If I were an editor who wanted to twist Hitchens' words here, I could have changed the above passage to: "Moore mentions the 30-year record of war crimes and repression from Saddam's Baath Party, while pointing out that the Bush cabinet members that very much wanted to go to war against him also once sold him chemical weapons, financed his army and called him their great friend in the Middle East" - and it wouldn't be a lie. That's exactly what Moore says, but Hitchens prefers to twist it so Moore looks e-ville.
Hitchens is essentially admitting the same thing Moore is saying - that the US built Saddam, and that the blood of those Iraqis he killed and tortured is on that country's hands. But he says it in such a way that anyone who hasn't seen the film could say "Yeah! That Michael Moore, he's a liar!"
Which is very similar to the title of Hitchens' piece yet, remarkably, we haven't actually got to a single lie yet. Let's see if any pop up in the rest of the article...
"Moore asserts that Iraq under Saddam had never attacked or killed or even threatened (his words) any American. I never quite know whether Moore is as ignorant as he looks, or even if that would be humanly possible. Baghdad was for years the official, undisguised home address of Abu Nidal, then the most-wanted gangster in the world, who had been sentenced to death even by the PLO and had blown up airports in Munich and Rome."
As an objective writer (yes, I do consider myself as such), I have to point out when something that doesn't help my side of the argument is factual, and this is indeed a blooper from Moore. Certainly I know what the filmmaker was trying to say - that Iraq was no threat to us on or after September 11 2001, but he said it in a way that makes him easy to shoot down.
Fact, Saddam Hussein had often boasted of offering rewards to the families of terrorists, most specifically in Israel. Fact, Saddam's men tried to off Poppy Bush after he'd been removed as President of the United States. Fact, Iraq took US citizens hostage during the Gulf War. Fact, American soldiers died during the Gulf War.
But the following must be added:
* Israel-based terrorism was never the object of the attack on Iraq by America. The 9/11 terrorists were and, as we now know in a big way, Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. In Bush's own words, "We have no evidence that Saddam was involved in the September the 11th."
* While Saddam's agents tried to off Bush Sr after he had stepped down from office, that was after Iraq had been famously (and remarkably unreportedly) told by Bush Sr's government that the US took "no position" on the country's dispute with Kuwait. Iraq warned loudly that they may decide to attack the Kuwaitis over a border dispute that involved Kuwait 'angle drilling' for oil that was under Iraqi territory. Iraq objected to these actions, saying Kuwait was stealing their resources. Kuwait told them to get stuffed, more or less, so Iraq decided to make it interesting.
And that's where the US said "we have no position on this dispute." So Saddam attacked. Then we called him a villain and attacked him.
So sure, Saddam's men went out to get Bush Sr. Considering what Bush Sr's staff got Iraq into, it's kind of understandable that there was animosity, don't you think?
* Yes, Iraq took hostages during the war (who were all released unharmed) and Americans died fighting in the conflict - but they WERE no threat to Americans until we doublecrossed them and decided to invade. And, if you want to get all factual, more Americans died at the hands of fellow Americans in the Gulf War than died from Iraqi weapons. Friendly fire was by far the biggest killer in that war, just as it was in the Afghanistan invasion, and the attacks on Serbia during the Clinton years.
So yeah, Moore overplays the case with his statement, but it's certainly defensible.
"Thus, in spite of the film's loaded bias against the work of the mind, you can grasp even while watching it that Michael Moore has just said, in so many words, the one thing that no reflective or informed person can possibly believe: that Saddam Hussein was no problem. No problem at all."
Oh Chris, he says no such thing. What he says is that we built Saddam, then when he was no longer our buddy and 9/11 happened, it suddenly became easier to justify invading a sovereign nation. And yes, as much as Saddam was a bastard, he was the leader of a sovereign nation. And we invaded that nation. And today we occupy it.
And hey, let's not forget, we've also tortured their people. And we've selected their leaders. And we've closed their newspapers. And we're taking their natural resources to pay for the action we took against them. Viva democracy!
"We are shown some American civilians who have had absurd encounters with idiotic "security" staff. (Have you ever met anyone who can't tell such a story?) Then we are immediately shown underfunded police departments that don't have the means or the manpower to do any stop-and-search: a power suddenly demanded by Moore on their behalf that we know by definition would at least lead to some ridiculous interrogations. Finally, Moore complains that there isn't enough intrusion and confiscation at airports and says that it is appalling that every air traveler is not forcibly relieved of all matches and lighters. (Cue mood music for sinister influence of Big Tobacco.) So—he wants even more pocket-rummaging by airport officials? Uh, no, not exactly. But by this stage, who's counting?"
I am. If Hitchens can't see Moore's point in all this, he's either trying hard not to or he's just flat out dumb. By pointing out the ridiculous stories of encounters with overzealous security staff, then pointing out that the State of Oregon only has eight state troopers on duty at certain times through the week, leaving huge swathes of coastline unprotected, then pointing out that three matchbooks and two lighters is a-okay to take on a plane but four matchbooks and two lighters is not (despite the evidence showing that shoebomber Richard Reid would have succeeded in blowing up a civillian flight if he'd had access to a lighter), Moore is making a very salient point. That point is that homeland security is a JOKE.
You can see that, right? Because I saw it clearly. Is it just me?
"Circling back to where we began, why did Moore's evil Saudis not join "the Coalition of the Willing"? Why instead did they force the United States to switch its regional military headquarters to Qatar?"
Because, and I'd be surprised if Hitchens truly doesn't know this, the Saudi royals are far from 'in control' at home. Their close ties to the US are the subject of much local dissension, and bombings of US buildings in Saudi Arabia are a very regular occurrence. In fact, for many years those bombings were blamed on westerners who the Saudis accused of running 'illegal alcohol rings." It was a turf war, they said, and they arrested random Brits and Canadians, holding them in prison for many years (dozens are still there), torturing them and beating them for confessions, all so they could put forth the spin that there was no internal problem in Saudi Arabia.
Well, there is. There's a big problem, and had the Saudi leaders allowed America to run its attack on Iraq from that country, chances are you'd have seen open revolt against the house of Saud. That's why they didn't let the US base their forces there, and let's not forget that the American presence in Saudi Arabia is why Osama Bin Laden got annoyed with the US in the first place (along with the lack of a Palestinian homeland, Bin Laden's big demand is that the US get out of a nation that is considered the Arab holy land). It's also why the US didn't make a bigger deal about the refusal - in essence, they understood the delicacy of the situation and they moved one country downwind.
"There's more. Poor people often volunteer to join the army, and some of them are duskier than others. Betcha didn't know that. Back in Flint, Mich., Moore feels on safe ground. There are no martyred rabbits this time. Instead, it's the poor and black who shoulder the packs and rifles and march away."
Is Hitchens really going to hang his hat on this? In F9/11, Moore follows a couple of Marine recruiters as they hit the local shopping mall (the poorer mall, where the minority folks shop) in search of new blood. They can be heard talking about how to corner someone trying to get away from them, they're seen taking down the name and address of someone who says they're not interested, "so we know not to bother you again..." Puh-lease.
And most interestingly? The recruitment candidates are mostly black. They're mostly unemployed. They're mostly people who have nothing going on in life and are being offered schooling, which they can otherwise in no way afford. And to illustrate that point, Moore talks to a Flint woman in gainful employment (in a town with nearly 50% unemployment), a white woman at that, who boasts proudly about her family's military tradition, and how she had been telling her children from a young age that the military was the only way they could get out of Flint and get an education.
Did I mention that woman's son died in Iraq?
The truth is that the people serving in Iraq are, by and large, either volunteers from poor backgrounds trying to get some sort of possibility of education in their lives, or middle class white folks who signed up to the National Guard back in the day when doing so meant you WOULDN'T be sent overseas. There's also another contingent in the US armed forces that perhaps you didn't know about - the foreigners. Yes, America's armed forces now feature Mexicans who want citizenship in the US and are prepared to be shot at to get it. Foreign nationals in America's armed forces - but hey, Moore shouldn't point such things out because whitey might feel slighted, right Hitchens?
"In the film, Moore says loudly and repeatedly that not enough troops were sent to garrison Afghanistan and Iraq. (This is now a favorite cleverness of those who were, in the first place, against sending any soldiers at all.)"
Uh, no. He doesn't. He says not enough troops were sent to Afghanistan - which is correct, evidenced by the fact that we didn't catch Osama Bin Laden, who killed 3000 of our own. But Moore is NOT saying there should have been more troops sent to Iraq, he's saying that the US went in underprepared. There's a big difference between the two positions - one says "we should flood the country with our men and get the bastards!" while the other says, "You idiots, you sent our kids in there, in numbers too small to effectively control the place, when you shouldn't have been sending in troops at all!" The latter is Moore's point, and it's a very clear one.
Hitchens is being intellectually dishonest here on a grand scale. He's pulling the right wing move that we've seen time and again where you manipulate words and scenarios to suit your own needs, and anyone who sees Moore's movie will see, front and center, that this is the case.
And they really will. I mean, good grief, a woman who sat next to me during this film, a respected newspaper writer in this town, cried at what she saw on screen. She cried. Not quietly, not a single tear quickly sucked back in - she cried LOUDLY.
Is this woman merely someone so weak of mind that she could be snowed by some clever editing and emotional background music? Of course not. What she saw were images we're not allowed to see as a matter of course in American life any more. She saw babies covered in burns, missing limbs, being thrown on trucks. She saw US soldiers singing "the roof is on fire" as Baghdad buildings burned behind them. She saw soldiers standing in the desert wondering what the hell they got themselves into, and why.
And she saw a pattern of deception, hubris and elitist manouveuring that saw the western world descend into war for NO REASON other than the profit of a small number of people. She saw lives destroyed so that Halliburton could see their stock rise. She saw parents grieving, caskets returning, and innocent Iraqi civilians calling for our deaths because, heck, after you've flattened someone's home with their family inside, they tend to get a littly pissy.
"However, I think we can agree that the film is so flat-out phony that "fact-checking" is beside the point."
Excuse me? What did he just say? "Fact-checking is beside the point"?
No sir, fact checking IS the point when you accuse someone of lying. And you, sir, have not proved one single lie here, only a bunch of inferences that exist in your head and nowhere else. Hitchens is saying that F9/11 is an awful movie simply because it doesn't take his perspective on things. He claims lies have been told, but can only find one statement that could even be inferred as untrue - and even that's a stretch. As for the rest, he seems to think if he can smear a little doody on Michael Moore's reputation at the top of the article, he doesn't have to prove it in the bottom. So if you happen to know the New York Times' Judith Miller personally, kindly let her know there's a new hack in town. She's now number two behind Chris "Hatchet" Hitchens, who accuses people of lying but doesn't deliver the evidence.
This Slate article, good people with brains in your heads, is some of the shoddiest 'journalism' I've seen. And it comes to you from a guy who wrote an article not long ago defending Ahmad Chalabi, double agent to the Iranians, fabricator of WMD stories, and wanted bank defrauder, saying "if there has to be a 'Mr. Shiite' in Iraq, I can think of worse candidates than Chalabi."
It seems this article has quickly become the most read article in the six years of our website's history, which is great to see. I've received a host of emails in support of the piece, but thought I should share one that came in today, because it addresses one of the above claims in particular.
"Great article! Thanks for posting it. One correction that I wanted to get to the author because I think it would make the argument STRONGER deals with refutation of the following: "Moore asserts that Iraq under Saddam had never attacked or killed or even threatened (his words) any American." I recently saw F9-11 and I heard Moore say something different. What I heard was that Iraq never threatened to attack America, not "any American". This seemed to me a good point, one worthy of Moore making. Parry does an amazing job overall, but I think he missed this one. I would love for him to see that he doesn't have to concede even this one point! Thanks!"
-JF, Corte Madera, CA
And a big thanks to you, J.
I will say, because I didn't take notes of specific quotes while watching the film initially, and didn't feel up to watching it again in its entirety just to make sure that Hitchens' claim here could be backed up, I opted instead to step back from attacking that paragraph of his piece. As anyone who has had to take notes in a darkened movie theater can attest to, it isn't easy to jot down every quote that may come in handy later on while paying attention to what is happening on screen, so rather than say "Hey, I'm pretty sure he didn't say that," I instead chose to just let one slide through to the catcher. I will add that I thought it odd that, if Moore did indeed speak those words during the film, I didn't sit bolt upright upon hearing them and say "excuse me?"
That such a moment never hit me would seem to back up your claim that the wording was different from what Hitchens claims, but until someone can give me a definite word-for-word quote, I'll continue to simply say that perhaps Moore could have made his point in a different way.
Like maybe saying, "Iraq had no WMD, no connection to Al Queda, had never invaded America, had never killed an American hostage during the first Gulf War, and with their army and air force in tatters, was no threat to any of us when we decided to bomb the heck out of them."
Because that, ladies and gentlemen, is the honest, irrefutable, absolute truth of the situation. The US was bombed by Osama Bin Laden, who to this day sits in Pakistan in relative safety, and we instead opted to go beat on someone who had nothing to do with him. What next? Death to Greenland? The War on Luxembourg? Take the fight to the evil Swiss?
Thanks for writing, and be sure to post any comments, positive or negative in our forum area.
Oh, and congratulations to those who helped make F9/11 the biggest documentary opening of all time, and the biggest opening of any film under 1000 screens in cinematic history. One has to wonder what might have been if it had gotten on to 3000 screens, like White Chicks (which it beat).
Thanks to 'Curt' who wrote us to let us know that this issue had been discussed on ABC TV by Michael Moore and Jake Tapper. It does clarify what Moore said in greater detail:
TAPPER: You declare in the film that Hussein's regime had never killed an American …
MOORE: That isn't what I said. Quote the movie directly.
TAPPER: What is the quote exactly?
MOORE: "Murdered." The government of Iraq did not commit a premeditated murder on an American citizen. I'd like you to point out one.
TAPPER: If the government of Iraq permitted a terrorist named Abu Nidal who is certainly responsible for killing Americans to have Iraq as a safe haven; if Saddam Hussein funded suicide bombers in Israel who did kill Americans; if the Iraqi police — now this is not a murder but it's a plan to murder — to assassinate President Bush which at the time merited airstrikes from President Clinton once that plot was discovered; does that not belie your claim that the Iraqi government never murdered an American or never had a hand in murdering an American?
MOORE: No, because nothing you just said is proof that the Iraqi government ever murdered an American citizen. And I am still waiting for you to present that proof. You're talking about, they provide safe haven for Abu Nidal after he committed these murders, uh, Iraq helps or supports suicide bombers in Israel. I mean the support, you remember the telethon that the Saudis were having? It's our allies, the Saudis, that have been providing help and aid to the suicide bombers in Israel. That's the story you should be covering. Why don't you cover that story? Why don't you cover it?
TAPPER: I've been told that's all the time we have. Thank you very much for this spirited debate, I appreciate your time, good luck with the movie.
For what it's worth, my original opinion on this one stands, even though Hitchens got the quote incorrect. I think it's a stretch from Moore to make the claim, whether he's worded it properly or not. However, when you compare what he actually said to Hitchens' claim that "Moore asserts that Iraq under Saddam had never attacked or killed or even threatened (his words) any American," it's clear that Hitchens got this one VERY wrong, which has to put the credibility of his entire piece in doubt.
Regardless, even if Moore had said what Hitchens attributed to him, it would be a tiny beef with an otherwise fact-intensive film, and certainly wouldn't change the fact that the flick is filled with the kind of revelations that most people don't know, and will be very much shocked by.
This past week has seen a lot of Republican talk about fallacies in the Moore film, but they haven't been able to point one single lie out to date, and you know they're trying really hard to find one. So if there are no lies to be found, all you can criticize the film for is the filmmaking itself - and on that front, it's pretty tough to fault, if the reaction of the crowds this past weekend was anything to go on.
I'll say what I have said to so many this past week when they claim F9/11 is all lies - just go see it. If you don't want to contribute to the box office, download it. Whatever. Just see it and THEN form your opinion.
Thanks for the heads up, Curt, and if anyone is looking for more information on what the film mentions, including sources that CAN be trusted (unlike Chris Hitchens), take a look at our forum area linked below.
If you're in the mood for a laugh, take a look at this screenshot of one of the user ratings we found giving Fahrenheit 9/11 a 1-star rating on this site. You'll notice the originating IP address is http://www.caci.com, the website of a private security company who actually provided interrogators to the Abu Ghraib prison. In fact, it was only a few months ago that the CACI website actually ran public job listings for "Iraq interrogator" where one of the prerequisites was the ability to "work under minimal supervision."
I applied for the job, but didn't make the cut. Perhaps that was because I pointed out to them that they misspelled 'interrogate" in their ad.
But hey, good to know the people of CACI are into movies.
This from the IMDB News:
Disney Screens New Movie for 'Fahrenheit' Foes
The Walt Disney Co. has screened its patriotic documentary America's Heart and Soul in Sacramento for MoveAmericaForward.org, an Internet-based organization that was set up earlier this month by a politically conservative public relations firm to battle Michael Moore's film, Fahrenheit 9/11, which Disney rejected. Following the screening, Howard Kaloogian, chairman of MoveAmericaForward.org, called the film "inspirational." His colleague, Sal Russo, added: "At this point in time, we ought to be focusing on movies that bring us together rather than divide us." Moore questioned the timing of the release and denounced the studio's decision to screen it for MAF. "First, Disney tried to stop the movie from being released, and now it is aligning itself with the very people who are trying to intimidate the movie theaters from showing the movie," he said. Disney issued a statement maintaining that the new movie, which it is releasing nationwide on Friday, "had nothing to do with Fahrenheit 9/11 and there is no link at all between the two movies."
Uh, yes there is. The group Disney showed the film to has campaigned out have F9/11 taken out of theaters. If anything, the connection between these two movies is a lot stronger than the connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Queda.
My prediction: Applications for the job of Disney CEO will be accepted by the end of the week. Get 'em ready, people!